When I was in high school, I had an aptitude for writing. I also had an aptitude for a completely unrelated field. And I was interested in both, passionate about both. Which direction should I choose for college and beyond, I wondered?
Ultimately, I decided it would make more sense to have a career in this other field, and write on the side, than to try to do the reverse. This would also enable me to write whatever I wanted, since I wouldn’t be depending on my writing for income.
There was another benefit I hadn’t anticipated, but which has become clear to me over the years. Writing is an uncertain, risky, unpredictable, high-rejection profession. I prefer predictability. I like my efforts to be rewarded proportionally, not erratically. I doubt I would have been emotionally equipped to ride the emotional roller coaster of writing as my sole or central pursuit.
My day job has given me more than a steady income and health insurance (important as those are). Whether or not my creative writing is going well, I have a job where I’m needed and appreciated. I have a purpose and an audience there, and an entirely different way to use my brain.
I confess to envying full-time writers—especially during the hectic times when I was working full time and writing one book and still promoting the previous one. Instead of dragging myself out of bed at five AM for the commuter train, I wanted to sleep until ten and then head down the hall to my keyboard, free from any worries about late trains or bad weather. But then the writing would hit a low again, and I’d be glad to get to work where I got consistent positive feedback and could see the results of my efforts reflected in real-world, tangible projects.
These two parts of my life have really complemented each other. From writing I get to flex my creative muscles and hone my communication skills. In my day job I get to practice analytical thinking and technical skills. Both jobs involve problem solving, teamwork, and adaptability. I don’t think my life would be as good without both of them, and each of them makes me better at the other.